Natural disasters killed 91,900 in 2005: UN

GENEVA (AFP) - Natural disasters were on the rise last year, leaving tens of millions of people destitute and in need of aid, but they claimed fewer lives, a United Nations monitoring body said.

The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) said it counted 360 natural disasters in 2005, including Hurricane Katrina in the United States and the South Asian earthquake, compared to 305 a year earlier.

The overall death toll dropped to 91,900, with 73,338 of the dead in Pakistan's quake zone alone.

In 2004 the total was 244,500, of which 226,408 victims were from the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The number of people caught up in disasters climbed to 157 million, or seven million more than in 2004, said the ISDR.

Total economic damage reached 159 billion dollars, compared to 92.9 billion dollars a year earlier.

The economic data covers insured losses, and so mostly relates to losses in richer countries, the ISDR noted. Hurricane Katrina inflicted 125 billion dollars of damage in the southern United States.

The ISDR count covers any disaster which kills more than 10 people and affects at least 100, and leads to a state of emergency being declared or an appeal for international aid.